Former Argentine president Mauricio Macri returned to his country Tuesday, but said he will not give a statement in a probe about alleged spying on relatives of 44 sailors who died in the sinking of a navy submarine.

"I will not appear until the issues that my lawyer will raise are resolved to guarantee me due process and a defense in court," Macri said on Twitter.

The center-right ex-president is being investigated for his alleged responsibility in spying on relatives of crew members who died when a submarine sank on the high seas in November 2017. The San Juan was discovered in November 2018 at a depth of 900 meters, after a year of searching with the support of navies from other nations.

Family members of the 44 crew members told investigators they were followed and wiretapped, filmed and intimidated into abandoning any claims related to the incident.

Macri is accused of ordering the espionage. He risks between three and 10 years in jail for allegedly violating Argentina's intelligence laws.

"I have nothing to do with this case. I never spied on or asked to spy on the families," said Macri, who was summoned to appear Wednesday to answer questions.

Former Argentine president Mauricio Macri is accused of overseeing spying on relatives of crew members of a sunken submarine Former Argentine president Mauricio Macri is accused of overseeing spying on relatives of crew members of a sunken submarine Photo: AFP / Juan MABROMATA

Judge Martin Bava subpoenaed Macri, 62, earlier this month to testify about his role in the alleged espionage but Macri was in the United States when he got the order to testify.

He later traveled to Qatar and an extension was granted until this October 20.

The former president questioned having been summoned "in the electoral campaign" for the November 14 legislative elections, and other measures such a ban on him leaving the country.

Judge Bava said in a letter that "the then-president was fully aware of the follow-up carried out by the Federal Intelligence Agency regarding the relatives of the crew members" of the submarine.

Macri in turned criticized what he called "the incompetence of Judge Bava... and irregularities of the judge, denounced for possible falsehoods in another case."

The then heads of the intelligence services Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani are also accused of gathering "illegal intelligence" on the relatives, who were trying to find out the fate of the submarine when it was missing for a year.